Latest Blog Posts

<p>Was Spielberg being &quot;stubborn&quot; in shooting &quot;War Horse&quot; on film?</p>

Was Spielberg being "stubborn" in shooting "War Horse" on film?

Credit: Touchstone Pictures

Round-up: Did cinematography turn a corner in 2011?

Also: A potential Oscar double for 'Pina,' and Hollywood's sequel binge

There's a provocative piece on IndieWire by filmmaker Jamie Stuart that is likely to provoke strong opinions on either side of the film-or-digital cinematographer divide. Looking back on a number of major 2011 releases, Stuart wonders if 2011 was the year things conclusively shifted in favor of digital, and takes filmmakers like Steven Spielberg to task for his "stubbornness" in shooting "War Horse" on film when it doesn't, in his opinion, adapt well to digital projection. (Conveniently for his argument, he doesn't mention "The Adventures of Tintin" at all.) I'd have more time for Stuart's argument if he admitted to seeing more than two films in theaters in 2011, but aside from that, who's to tell an artist what medium they may or may not paint in? [IndieWire]

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<p>&quot;Giant,&quot;&nbsp;&quot;The Sound of Music,&quot;&nbsp;&quot;Driving Miss Daisy,&quot;&nbsp;&quot;Forest Gump,&quot;&nbsp;&quot;Gladiator,&quot;&nbsp;&quot;Casablanca&quot;&nbsp;and &quot;The Godfather&quot; are showcased in the official poster for the 84th Academy Awards.</p>

"Giant," "The Sound of Music," "Driving Miss Daisy," "Forest Gump," "Gladiator," "Casablanca" and "The Godfather" are showcased in the official poster for the 84th Academy Awards.

Credit: AMPAS

The Official Poster for the 84th Academy Awards showcases former winners or does it?

Which movie didn't win the best picture Oscar?

The Academy released the official poster for the 84th Academy Awards today and boy is it a snoozer.

Featuring bubbles of former Academy winners including "The Sound of Music," "The Godfather," "Driving Miss Daisy," "Forest Gump," "Gladiator," "Casablanca" and "Gone With the WInd."  It also strangely includes "Giant" which was nominated, but didn't win (which makes it a tad out of place).  The poster is also instantly forgettable and looks like a home video cover for the best of an Oscar ceremony compilation.  What the tagline "Life. Camera. Action." has to do with the images is unclear.  Are these movies supposed to be representative of life?  Hmmm. O.K.  We're hoping the show will be better or at least watchable under Billy Crystal, er, producer Brian Grazer.

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My top nine concerts of 2011: Adele, Death Cab for Cutie and... Tom Jones?
Credit: AP Photo/Joel Ryan

My top nine concerts of 2011: Adele, Death Cab for Cutie and... Tom Jones?

Did your favorite act make the list?

When I looked back at the shows I attended over the past 12 months,  I went to plenty of concerts from newer artists, but as I compiled the list of the 2011 performances that stuck with me and impressed me the most, the veterans rose to the top. I don’t know if that’s because their experience trumps what often passes for showmanship these days or because it was simply a banner year for older acts to hit the road, but I was surprised how many of these acts who have been criss-crossing the world with their music for decades now made the list.

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<p>Jessica Chastain at the Morocco Film Festival.</p>

Jessica Chastain at the Morocco Film Festival.

Credit: AP Photo/Abdeljalil Bounhar

Jessica Chastain and Howard Shore to be honored at Palm Springs

The festival has announced its final awards recipients

The Palm Springs International Film Festival has announced its final honorees for this year’s Awards Gala. Jessica Chastain will receive the Spotlight Award for her work in “The Help,” “The Tree of Life,” “Take Shelter,” “The Debt” and “Coriolanus,” while composer Howard Shore will be feted with the Frederick Loewe Music Award for “Hugo.”

Shore also received the honor in 2004 for his “The Aviator" score. “Howard Shore is a master composer who has consistently delighted audiences with the more than 80 films that he has scored,” said festival chairman Harold Matzner. “He has received universal acclaim for 'Hugo,' with his compositions as dramatic and innovative as the 3D in which 'Hugo' was filmed.”

I’m not sure in which ways the 3D in “Hugo” was especially “dramatic” or “innovative.” Making good use of a format doesn’t necessarily equate to innovation, but, there you have it. Perhaps the festival chairman is referring to broadening the range in which 3D is put to use.

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<p>LMFAO</p>

LMFAO

Credit: AP Photo

Who knocks Rihanna's 'We Found Love' out of No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100?

Is Katy Perry any closer to setting the record with 'The One That Got Away?'

LMFAO’s patience is rewarded as the duo’s “Sexy and I Know It” finally rises to the summit after waiting at No. 2 for seven weeks on the Billboard Hot 100. Its ascent means that Rihanna’s “We Found Love” finds its way out of the top spot, slipping to No. 2.

“Sexy” is LMFAO’s second No. 1, following “Party Rock Anthem” featuring Lauren Bennett and GoonRock, which ruled for six weeks. For those who love chart minutiae, and who doesn’t, LMFAO is only the second duo, following OutKast, to have successive singles on the Hot 100 since Roxette in 1990-1991, according to Billboard. There’s more good news for LMFAO’s RedFoo and Sky Blu as “Anthem” returns to the top 10, jumping 15-9.

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<p>Meryl Streep at the New York premiere of &quot;The Iron Lady.&quot;</p>

Meryl Streep at the New York premiere of "The Iron Lady."

Credit: AP Photo/Marion Curtis

Watch Meryl Streep get the Kennedy Center treatment

Robert De Niro, Kevin Kline and Anne Hathaway among those paying tribute

Whether Meryl Streep wins her third Oscar in two months' time or not is still highly uncertain -- Michelle Williams has so far been winning the battle of the biopics in the critics' awards, while Viola Davis must wait until January's more populist ceremonies to potentially make her mark in the race -- but she's already received a neat maybe-consolation prize in the form of her Kennedy Center Honors presentation, which aired on US television last night.

Certainly, no Academy Award presentation can match this one for either generosity of spirit or simple star wattage: in order, Tracey Ullman, Robert De Niro, Mike Nichols, Kevin Kline, Emily Blunt, Stanley Tucci and Anne Hathaway all turned up to pay their respects in an elaborately staged tribute that, while unrelated, seemed to karmically repay Streep for her own lovely testimony at the Academy's Vanessa Redgrave tribute evening last month. The actress seems more comfortable at the giving than the receiving end of lavish praise, but good sport that she is, she grins through the whole thing.

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Taking questions for 12/30 Oscar Talk

Offer up your burning queries

Alright, you know the drill. I'm not quite sure what we'll be discussing yet, but for now, go ahead and tell use your need-to-knows and we'll address a few in the podcast. As always, keep it fresh and try not to retread things we've already covered.

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Greg P. Russell, doing his thing.
Greg P. Russell, doing his thing.
Credit: Greg P. Russell

Sound mixer Greg P. Russell talks creating 'dynamic range' on 'Transformers'

The 14-time nominee closes in on yet another nod this year

We've talked to Greg P. Russell here at In Contention numerous times over the years, stretching back, I think, to his work on 2006's "Apocalypto." He's amassed 14 Oscar nominations throughout his career (including two in 1998), but the statue has eluded him.

This is kind of what I'm talking about when I harp on the fact that the Academy at large just doesn't think all that hard about its choices throughout the crafts categories. From member to member, I'd be shocked if the difference between sound editing and sound mixing is all that considered or even known. It's all about favorite movies when they get to those categories, which explains why other talented craftsmen like Roger Deakins and Kevin O'Connell have also gone Oscarless all this time despite often cranking out some of the best work in their fields.

Films like "The Rock" and "Con Air," therefore, just don't win Oscars. But Russell's contribution to those kinds of films is substantial, as it was this year on "Transformers: Dark of the Moon."

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<p>John Hawkes sings &quot;Marcy's Song&quot; in &quot;Martha Marcy May Marlene.&quot;</p>

John Hawkes sings "Marcy's Song" in "Martha Marcy May Marlene."

Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Round-up: 'Shame' and 'Martha Marcy' going for a song

Also: Reznor on working with Fincher, and 'War Horse' the one to beat?

There's a lovely piece by Ian Buckwalter on NPR today about two of the most striking musical moments in film in 2011: John Hawkes's performance of "Marcy's Song" in "Martha Marcy May Marlene" and Carey Mulligan's slowed-down rendition of "New York, New York" in "Shame." Neither, of course, is a song originally written for the film, yet both selections feel more cinematically and thematically resonant than most Best Original Song contenders in any given year. As Buckwalter puts it: "[T]hey contain coded messages that pass, hidden between the lines, between the maker and the recipient... a simple two-minute pop song can carry more meaning and history than pages and pages of dialogue." [NPR

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<p>&quot;Hugo&quot;&nbsp;won Best Picture but nothing else from the group.</p>

"Hugo" won Best Picture but nothing else from the group.

Credit: Paramount Pictures

Austin film critics like 'Hugo,' Refn and Shannon

And the 'Attack the Block' score gets its due!

The Austin Film Critics Association is the latest group to speak up on the year's best, tapping "Hugo" as the best picture of the year. The film didn't show up anywhere else on the unique slate of superlatives, though, which included three wins for "Drive." Check out the full list of winners below.

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<p>Carey&nbsp;Mulligan and Ryan&nbsp;Gosling in a scene from &quot;Drive&quot;</p>

Carey Mulligan and Ryan Gosling in a scene from "Drive"

Credit: FilmDistrict

The 'Drive' that binds

Four top 10 lists here at HitFix converged on one film

As the year draws to a close, we find ourselves in the midst of the season's superlative train. Most of the critics have had their say, and one film that has done somewhat surprisingly well on the circuit, establishing the field-leading Best Supporting Actor candidate and corralling a healthy share of Best Director trophies, too, is Nicolas Winding Refn's "Drive."

Not only that, but it is also the only film shared by top 10 lists published here at HitFix by Drew McWeeny (#6), Gregory Ellwood (#2), Guy Lodge (#3) and yours truly (#3). That's interesting to me, because when you look at those three takes on the 2011 film year, they are drastically different and have different criteria (in some instances different release date criteria) for judgment. But they converge at this one dynamic burst of style and vision. Why, I wonder? What is it about this film that manages to bridge gaps like that? And it's not just us, of course, as "Drive" has popped up on a number of top 10 lists this year, firmly in the top tier of the year's favorites.

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<p>Kenneth Branagh at the UK premiere of &quot;My Week with Marilyn&quot;&nbsp;on Nov. 20 in London.</p>

Kenneth Branagh at the UK premiere of "My Week with Marilyn" on Nov. 20 in London.

Credit: AP Photo/Joel Ryan

Kenneth Branagh on the 'method' of playing Olivier and Marvel movies fueling England's film biz

Has he had his own 'Marilyn' on set?

If anyone deserves the 2011 comeback of the year award it may just be Kenneth Branagh. 

The four-time Oscar nominee burst upon the scene in 1989 with his acclaimed adaptation of "Henry V."  It was a remarkable achievement which he both directed and starred in at the ripe old age of 28.  Branagh became a creative force and incredibly prolific during the early to mid-90's with more Shakespeare adaptations such as "Much Ado About Nothing" and a four-hour "Hamlet," the underrated thriller "Dead Again," cult comedy favorite "Peter's Friends" and the studio misfire "Frankenstein." His career hit a major bumpy patch after his villainous turn in the disappointing "Wild Wild West" and the critical drubbing of his musical version of "Love's Labour's Lost" in 2000.  What followed was almost a decade of supporting roles in films such as "Rabbit-Proof Fence," "Valkyrie" and "Pirate Radio" and little substantial directing work.  I remember speaking to Branagah when "Sleuth" screened at the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival and he was humbly grateful star and producer Jude Law offered him the chance to helm a movie people were paying attention to.  It was a far cry from a decade earlier when he was the toast of Hollywood and "Hamlet" was perceived as a best picture nominee (which didn't happen although it did land four nominations).

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